Anybody can have a stroke, but certain factors place a person at higher risk. Some factors that increase the risk of stroke cannot be changed, while others are linked to lifestyle.
Risk factors that cannot be changed
Some risk factors for stroke cannot be changed:
Age: The older a person gets, the greater the risk of stroke.
Gender: Men are more likely to have a stroke than women are.
Race: Blacks have a greater risk of stroke than whites do.
Diabetes: people with diabetes mellitus are more at risk.
A history of migraine headaches: Recent studies indicate that women who experience migraines are at higher risk for ischemic stroke (stroke caused by a blockage in a blood vessel).
A prior stroke: Someone who has had a stroke has a slightly increased for another.
Risk factors that can be changed with Medical Treatment
The major risk factors for stroke that medical treatment can change are:
High blood pressure: High blood pressure has no warning signs, so regular blood pressure checks are important. The condition can be easily and successfully controlled with medication and lifestyle modification.
TIAs, or “mini-strokes”: A surprising number of people ignore the symptoms of TIAs, which are warning signs that a stroke may be about to happen. But people who have had TIAs can take steps to help prevent a major stroke.
Berry aneurysms: These are small, sac-like areas within the wall of a cerebral artery. Some people are born with berry aneurysms. They occur most often at the junctures of vessels at the base of the brain. Berry aneurysms may rupture without warning, causing bleeding within the brain.
Cardiovascular disease: Certain disorders of the heart and/ or blood vessels, such as atherosclerosis and atrial fibrillation, can produce blood clots that may break loose and travel to the brain.
Risk factors that can be changed by Lifestyle Modifications
Risk factors for stroke that can be controlled by change in lifestyle are:
High blood cholesterol levels: Studies have shown that lowering cholesterol levels can reduce the risk of stroke by as much as 30 percent. Keeping cholesterol low can reduce the risk of blood clots and build up within the walls of an artery in the brain.
Cigarette smoking: Cigarette smoking has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, artery disease in the legs, and lung cancer. Nicotine raises blood pressure, carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen the blood can carry to the brain, and cigarette smoke makes the blood thicker and more likely to clot. It is never too late to give up smoking.
Taking birth control pills if you are a smoker: Research has proven that smoking and taking birth control pills significantly increase a woman’s risk for stroke. Together, they can cause blood clots to form. Women who take birth control pills should not smoke.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol: Frequent intoxication can make a person more likely to experience bleeding in the brain. Also, alcohol in large amounts can raise the blood pressure.
Obesity: Being overweight increases your risk of having a stroke, along with other health problems.
Lack of exercise: Moderate exercise can help keep bleed pressure and cholesterol levels within normal ranges.
Poor diet: A diet high in fat can cause conditions within the body that can contribute to a stroke.